1,000 Families Project: Green Parenting

This woman has carried the car-free, farmer’s-market-shopping ways of her kid-free days into life as a mother of two. In fact, her green lifestyle philosophy inspired a business she loves.

Before I had children, I regularly bought clothes and furniture second-hand and rode my bike everywhere. I didn’t realize how much this had seeped into my way of life until I had children and held fast to this lifestyle.

I still shopped at a co-op or farmer’s market when I could, and recycled as much as possible. In fact, now it seemed more important that I do so. Landfill diversion became just as important as making sure my children ate well (most of the time), and that we exercised regularly and did things in our community. Today I think of green parenting as a combination of things that anyone can take part in, even if only in a small way.

When my son was about six months old, I remember visiting friends of ours who had children and were also car-less. Their take on it was that if we stuck it out after having two children and didn’t get one, we were never going to.

Our daughter is now five and we have stuck to our car-less ways. It does mean a lot of things. You might not play certain sports like hockey that involve a lot of equipment. You cannot buy just anything at the store on impulse if it’s large. You will get soaked and frozen a lot more, and you will have days where it will be impossible for you to get somewhere on time—even if it’s just over a kilometre away—because you’re just not moving that fast.

On the plus side, you support local businesses, you get to know your neighbours, you will never be stuck in traffic on a beautiful day and you get a lot more great second-hand items because you’re walking. (I’ll get to that later.)

My family bikes all over the city, and I’m happy to report that—with some practice—it’s fairly easy to get a child to bike in the bike lane. Many bike stores have really great options for cargo bikes as well that can accommodate two children and a load of groceries.

Before I had children, I shopped at Karma Co-Op. It has some of the best produce in the city, hands down. The co-op taught me just how much packaging I used, and it charged for all produce, spice and bulk bags. I became a trained shopper, dutifully bringing all my own containers and bags. It’s not always practical, but it has definitely taught me to be more mindful of all the plastic I was using and if it was really necessary.

I think every parent has learned the hard lesson of spending way too much for a new baby item only to find your child hates it or it really serves no purpose. I was lucky enough to get a few key baby things given or lent to me over the years and have kept that practice going. It may be tempting to get the newest swing or the scientifically proven educational toy, but chances are your child will play with it for five minutes and move on.

If you can borrow gear, or get something second-hand, you can save some money while seeing if your child is really into it. It can get tricky if you’ve borrowed your friend’s high-end stroller and something breaks, but as far as those extras go—wheeled boards, fancy foot muffs, bouncers, exersaucers—see if you can find a loaner first. Chances are you already know someone who is trying to free up space by getting a clunky piece of equipment out of the way!

This is a topic that is not popular with my children, but I get super stressed out at the idea of buying a toy for a child I don’t know too well and then having it just sit there. So I’ve hosted parties where I ask parents to donate a small amount of money. I use some of it to buy something for my child and donate the rest to charity. Of course most kids would rather open up a pile of gifts, but it’s still something I try to do at least every second year to simplify things for the parents of the kids attending, and to manage my own stress over wrangling yet another pile of toys that could end up being neglected.

Finally, I also embrace the many resources for buying second hand. There are community groups on Facebook, consignment stores, Kijiji/Craigslist, garage sales and many new businesses popping up that specialize in curated baby items. Buying products from other parents keep you in your neighborhood, makes the transaction friendlier, and keeps things out of the landfill. I really feel that the cumulative choices we make as parents are what will truly make the difference in the end.

Through the years I picked up more skills fixing my own bike, which from there expanded into stroller repair. Eventually this lead to running a stroller repair shop where I both connect with my neighbours and do landfill-diverting work that I’m passionate about. For the past four years I learned how to refurbish parts and repair harnesses, connect parents to other parents who need something small or temporarily, donate services to schools and daycares, loan strollers to parents who don’t have a back-up and in general keep things working when you need to get another six months out of them.

In the end, my cycling led to my love of keeping things cleaner for the future of my children.

This is #1000families post number 211. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.
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Liz Hysen

About

Liz lives Toronto with her husband Graeme and two children Leon & Louise. They love cycling around the city but also enjoy walking, taking transit or a toboggan to school on snowy days. Liz is the owner of Stroller Spa Toronto, a full-service, eco-friendly, stroller and car seat cleaning and repair service in Toronto's Junction neighborhood, an authorized service center for Maclaren, BOB/Britax, Bugaboo, Mountain Buggy, Phil&Ted’s, Peg Perego, Uppa Baby, and Baby Jogger/City Mini. Liz is also a musician, gardener and does freelance research work on the side.


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